WARNING: This article contains spoiler information regarding DS9's "The Search, Part II". If you haven't seen the show and don't want to be spoiled, consider yourself warned.
In brief: Oy. I'm less concerned about the characters now, but if this is the sort of story we're in for ... uh-oh.
But first, a quick two-line summary for those who aren't sure of episode titles:
Summary: While Kira and Odo get to know Odo's people, Sisko returns from the Gamma Quadrant to find negotiations taking a decidedly strange and sinister turn.
Hm. Well, there's good news and bad news about this second half of "The Search".
The good news is that my worries after part 1 about the characters being somehow warped into aberrant versions of themselves seem to be unfounded. Odo, in particular, was the most out of character last week; and while I still think his behavior in part 1 was problematic, he seemed far more sensible here. Kira was both sensibly written and sensibly played (except in one instance, where she tells Odo what she's planning, potentially telling everyone else in the process; not a smart move), and most of the characters back on the station made a great deal of sense and kept my attention. So on that level, part 2 did a good job of easing my fears.
If "The Search" is any indication, DS9 is catching the Dumb Story Syndrome. Many of the implausibilities present last week, including ones so huge and so telegraphed that I even said to friends "nah, that's intentional; no one would leave a hole that big", were left to fester here while we watched a 30-minute "experiment" unfold. And then, to add to it, the explanations we did get for much of the episode were most unsatisfying. For instance:
-- There is still no valid reason for why Odo was suddenly affected with his compulsion to return home at this particular point in time. Yes, the head Changeling [assuming she was she was the leader at all, but she certainly seemed to be] said that the compulsion to return home was "implanted in [Odo's] genetic makeup", or some such technobabble. But that doesn't change what I said last week: Odo's been in the Gamma Quadrant before without feeling the urge. This is more careless than anything else, but it rankles.
-- There is still no explanation given for how Odo and Kira got off the Defiant last time around. Sure, it'd be easy to speculate that the Jem'Hadar realized Odo was a Founder (or at least one of their race) and decided to let them leave, but if so I imagine Odo would remember that as odd. Certainly, his mental faculties weren't in short supply once he reached his home...
-- The Romulan exclusion from the peace talks makes zero sense, even given that it's a test. Its whole purpose was solely to get Sisko ticked off (especially the more-than-a-bit-exploitative death of T'Rul), and there was no logic given for it at all other than "it's what the Founders want". WHY?
There are others as well, but I think I've said enough on that score. Things happened just for the sake of happening, and I've never been much for that. I can excuse it, though, on those occasions when the story is so good that one or two coincidences or implausibilities are needed to get us there.
Unfortunately, this whole story about the Changelings being the Founders is one that, in my opinion, was ill-conceived from the start. I know that the speculation about it started about two seconds after "The Jem'Hadar" aired last year, and I suspect that the thinking went "wouldn't it be cool if..." and proceeded from there.
Alas, my answer to that question is "no, it wouldn't be cool at all; it'd be dumb." The logic is very suspect here; the Changelings have had bad experiences with "solids" and their resentment, right? So what possible
thought justifies the idea of forcing their will on all solids, so as to give them both substantial contact with Borath's people and to give every subject of the Dominion a legitimate reason for resentment and attack? Odo
has been shown to be grim on many occasions, for certain, but he's never been depicted as stupid. The Founders' reasoning here is not only barbaric (as was pointed out), but simply short-sighted on a host of levels.
Granted, this isn't necessarily a fatal flaw -- perhaps the eventual way to solve the problems with the Dominion is to convince them of this fact. If so, that will provide the idea with a little depth, and will help substantially. However, given the lack of anyone pointing that out at present, I have to say that I found the whole thing cheesy. (Maybe I'm just pining for intelligent villains. Some of the Cardassians we've seen have played that role; if they're to be shunted aside for the sake of burly Jem'Hadar thugs, I have to wonder what the mindset is at Paramount Central Command.)
Even more than the basic silliness of the Changelings/Founders link, though, I found myself annoyed for what it did to Odo finding his people. Odo's search for his family isn't looking for people; it's looking for an identity. There was a vast amount of potential in scenes such as those with Odo's guide instructing him on what his gifts are meant to do, and what a Changeling really is. Odo had the opportunity here to learn so much about
himself, and we had the opportunity to learn it with him. Not any more, though; now that Odo's people are automatically relegated to the land of Bad Guys, Odo won't have those lessons. Maybe that's considered tragically noble in some circles; I consider it tragic, period.
(Note: I expect some will rebut that with "well, what about Worf? He's rejected some of what the Klingons do." Yes, he has -- after he learned more fully what it means to be Klingon, both in "society" and in his own heart. Odo hasn't figured out either yet, and has now been denied the opportunity to really choose.)
Now, an interlude to talk about the good things in the episode. :-) First on the list is something I've already mentioned: the characters. With only a few exceptions (primarily Kira's silliness in telling what might have been a garden full of Changelings her intentions), they were both intelligently written and true to the natures we have seen over the past two years. Add to that the fact that everyone did a good job performing their roles as well (particularly Rene Auberjonois, who was stunning), and you have some good stuff.
Jonathan Frakes also did a good job directing his first DS9 outing. While I wouldn't chalk this up with such work as "Reunion" or "Cause and Effect", both Frakes-directed pieces as well, I do think the pace seemed very snappy and the atmosphere was generally right (especially on Odo's side of the plot). The chase sequence at the end, in addition, had some very nice camera work in it that caught my eye.
In other words, we had characterization, acting, and directing all as pluses here. That leaves simply the story they had to tell -- and as I've been saying, that's where it all falls down.
Besides the implausibility factors, I have to also go on record as saying that I absolutely despise endings of the "and then they woke up" variety. This isn't to say that I haven't liked some stories that have it -- but they have to be amazingly, amazingly good up to that point and find something novel to do with the "it was all an illusion" ending as well. This, simply put, didn't do either.
The illusion, for one, was rather trivially easy to spot. The fact that we found Sisko and Bashir suddenly on a shuttle when we last saw them in a Jem'Hadar clinch suggested that we definitely missed something -- and
Odo/Kira's escape notwithstanding, the easy thing to assume is that they missed something as well, particularly since they seem uninjured. Add to that things like Nechayev calling Sisko "Benjamin" and referring to his wish for an Admiralty (a wish he rather explicitly rejected last time), and of course the sudden demise of Garak, and you had something that spelled "temporary" in large neon letters.
More to the point, though, what was served here? Is the threat of the Dominion gone? No. Has Sisko made any progress to ease the threat to the Federation, the quadrant, the station, or Bajor? No. Did we accomplish
anything? Once you take the 20-30 minutes of total Odo-centered time out, no -- which means we had an hour of filler. Not a good idea in general, and certainly not for a season premiere.
Basically, then, I found "The Search" as a whole an extremely frustrating episode. There were and are lots of good stories that could be told about a search for the Founders or Odo finally coming home; unfortunately, this
wasn't one of them.
So, a few short takes and then a wrapup:
-- Something I meant to mention last week: Dax's hair. Without sounding too opinionated, let's just say that we've decided one of her previous hosts must have gone by the name Elvis Dax and leave it at that. :-)
-- I hope we still see an issue of Odo's status on the station; that question was swept under the rug this week. If Eddington is inexplicably taken back to the Home for Disused Plot Devices next week, it won't be good.
-- One very nice touch in this story: if you look at Odo's homeworld, you will see a pedestal in the background that bears a rather strong resemblance to the one seen in "The Alternate" last year. It seems there was a
connection between it and Odo; interesting.
-- Dennis Christopher was a bit more subdued than I expected from his past work, but worked just fine as Borath (at least within the illusion; his last scene was a little whiny for my tastes).
-- Another question in the vein of "Is it obvious, or are we mentally ill?":
Jake to Sisko: "Pass the potatoes, Dad. Dad? Dad?"
Us: "Dad, stop building Devil's Tower out of your potatoes..."
Anyone want to weigh in with a verdict? :-)
-- On the other hand, I thought Quark's token scene was pretty terrible this week, particularly his dream. Were the writers trying to be offensive here?
That should about do it. I wish I could say I was pleased with the show, but I'd be wrong. Better luck next time -- and let's get back to internal issues and not this great Threat From Beyond!
So, summing up:
Plot: Well, loosely speaking, yes -- but rife with implausibilities and with a major cheat of an ending.
Plot Handling: Not too bad; Frakes definitely did what he could.
Characters/Acting: Generally solid.
The plot hurts an awful lot, though -- I'd have to say...
OVERALL: A 4. Let's hope this isn't a trend.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"I don't believe it; I'm talking to a tree."